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Getting Future Smart

This is the first post in a series researching the near future technologies that commercial builders, entrepreneurs, and developers will be adopting. We’ll take a look at how technology is affecting build decisions and what this could mean for the future of our industry and the people who inhabit our spaces.

Artificial intelligence, driverless cars and drone deliveries are ‘a thing’. Industries are and will continue to be disrupted (or at least influenced) by new technologies- improving our lives and practices as we strive to better connect, collaborate, control, and conserve.

Why ‘smart buildings’?

Owners and tenants would both like to reduce the cost of their overhead. The intelligent application of technology can lower the (literal and figurative) costs of keeping the lights on. A focus on building efficiency can both minimize maintenance costs and reduce the environmental impact over a building’s lifespan.

Automating efficiency is ‘smart’.

At its most basic, a smart building uses technology to share information that can be used to optimize cost, productivity, health and happiness per square foot. Data reported by various building systems activate automated processes from heating/air conditioning and ventilation to security.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Core systems are linked: water meters, pumps, fire alarms, power, lighting etc are all connected. The systems talk to one another.
  • Sensors collect data to inform decisions about where to allocate resources. e.g: motion detectors that report information on where people are during the day, outlining areas of high traffic and to initiate security procedures at night.
  • Information is analyzed in real time. Ongoing monitoring allows automated adjustments that control conditions across an entire building.
  • Smart buildings generate their own data. This can be analyzed to find room for further efficiencies or predict maintenance needs.

There are many motivations behind making a building ‘smart’: improving energy efficiency, reducing overhead/maintenance costs, integrating telecommunications or other client technology frameworks.

You can also teach an old building new tricks.

Retrofits for new technology like smart thermostats, motion detectors to turn off lights, etc. can augment existing structures. Some smart features may need additional infrastructures such as high-speed/fiber internet connections, diverse access points, and specific riser configurations (and a smart build team) to pull it together. Ask us about how we updated a heritage building for Square Canada to incorporate their new security system.

When to get smart

The discussion around implementing smart strategies ideally happens early. As with most aspects of the building process, smart strategies benefit from collaboration with all project stakeholders. Input from team members responsible for decisions in all phases of the project can set a building up to capitalize on opportunities that create returns long after the project is ‘finished’.